Who is the Toxic Avenger? Well, depending on who you ask, you might get a different answer. To me, he’s the sweet-hearted disabled star of Troma’s most famous movie. To others, he’s a symbol of B-movie schlock. And to some, he’s a figure of the resilience of real down-and-dirty indie cinema. All three are true, and they sum up just why Toxie—as he’s fondly known—has stood the test of time in a way that many other B-movie heroes haven’t. With the amazing news that Peter Dinklage will be taking on the role in a new reimagining of the story, it’s the perfect time to look back at the legacy of
If you’ve heard of Troma, you probably are a die-hard fan, hate them with a passion, or forgot that they ever existed. There doesn’t seem to be much in between. But in 1984, Lloyd Kaufman‘s indie studio released its biggest hit: the crossover monster movie that would keep them going for years to come.
It’s no surprise that the rebooted film has found legs during an age of true superhero saturation.
This was a pre-
Journey to Cult Classic Status
The film slid under the radar during its initial release. But a spate of midnight movie screenings at Greenwich Village’s iconic Bleecker Street Cinema began its road to cult movie fame. Word of mouth and the nature of Troma’s low budget moviemaking skills kicked a sequel into the works. The follow-up didn’t reach the lofty heights of the first film, but it wasn’t the last. In fact, Toxie became such a pop culture stalwart that he sparked two more sequels and a popular (if short-lived) cartoon,
The Toxic Avenger’s marketability and ever-growing cult status represented something big. It was a sign that low budget movies could still make it in the burgeoning age of the summer blockbuster.
What Toxie Meant to Hollywood
In a subversion of the usual toxic machismo guerrilla filmmaking attitude that pervades B-movie culture, Kaufman is known for his kindness. In 2012, he released the “Troma House Rules” on his website. Many in mainstream Hollywood could learn from the first three rules: 1. Safety to HUMANS, 2. Safety to PEOPLE’S PROPERTY, 3. make a good movie.
This triptych represents Kaufman’s subversive nature. Sure, making the movie is important, but the people who make it always come first. Those rules also noted, “While we at Troma Entertainment don’t take ourselves seriously, we take our movies VERY seriously,” which could be a motto for the studio.
Troma’s openness to new and different interpretations of Toxie helped make the character last. In 2008, a musical based on the movie debuted in New Jersey. The tongue-in-cheek adaptation reinvigorated the interest in the character; over the nine years to follow, the cult musical toured the US and opened in Australia, London, and Toronto. Not only did the show bring a new audience to Toxie, but it continued the Troma legacy of embracing the unexpected.
And now, Toxie looks to find new life in the form of Peter Dinklage, with director Macon Blair running the show. And with Kaufman attached to the project, it’s the perfect time for Toxie to step back into the spotlight. Long live Toxie! Long live truly weird indie cinema!